Pre-social media, there was Keiko, an orca who lived in a decrepit, cramped pool in Mexico City. His story became the hit movie, Free Willy. As the public became aware of Keiko’s plight, global momentum built until he was finally freed. Years later, the documentary, Blackfish, highlighted the plight of a collection of orcas who live, and continue to live, at Seaworld. Does the trauma of capitivty lead these orcas to live enslaved, anxiety-ridden lives to the point that they will kill humans? Watch the documentary and judge for yourself. Millions across the world have already voted ‘yes’ with their dollars by banning visits to Seaworld and other captive animal entertainment venues.
The ‘Blackfish Effect’ as this global movement is now called, went into overdrive when another animal freedom ambassador, Angel, was captured. Angel, was part of a dolphin super pod brutally trapped in the cove of Taiji, Japan in 2014. The juvenile dolphin was plucked from the pod immediately because of her all white skin. Albino dolphins are rare. The Japanese fisherman saw dollar signs. The world watched as activist organizations; The Dolphin Project and Sea Shepard’s Cove Guardians, reported live with images of the abductions and slaughter of the rest of the pod.
Just a month later in 2014 the dark side of zoos came to light as video and images from a zoo in Copenhagen, Denmark shot a young giraffe, Marius, in the head then carved it into pieces for the zoo lions to eat. All of this happened in front of a live audience including children. Yes, lions may prey on giraffes in the wild, but to slaughter a healthy giraffe because it doesn’t fit into the zoos breeding program is another manmade dilemma. Zoos lost their innocence that day for many who thought bringing their family there for the day was a delightful thing to do. Once again, campaigns, petitions, calls to lawmakers ensued.
The global outrage at inhumane treatment of animals clearly shows that despite the gut wrenching, atrocious acts some humans are capable of, there are millions of humans with kind, compassionate hearts. The synergy this latter group creates with the aid of social media now allows them to roar louder, and potentially create change faster. Within hours of Cecils death, a campaign for the White House reached over 100,000 signatures triggering a response from the White House. Within days, Botswana banned sports hunting and U.S. Senators introduced the “Cecil Act” to prevent the import of hunting trophies.
Nearly half of the world’s wildlife has been eliminated in the last forty years. If we are going to halt this decent, we will need more active wildlife advocates, leaders who act proactively and humans who will let them be wild.